Caring for your pet's dental health

How often do you brush your teeth? Twice daily? Three times a day, or more? Now how about your dog's teeth, or your cat's? I'm guessing the answer would be considerably less, or maybe even not at all. You're not alone.

Periodontal disease isn't just bad breath, it's an inflammatory disease that affects the soft and hard structures that support the teeth. It is the most common clinical condition occurring in adult dogs and cats and typically arises from inadequate dental care. By the time your pet is 3 years old, he or she will very likely have some early evidence of periodontal disease, which will worsen as your pet grows older if effective preventive measures aren't taken. Early detection and treatment are critical, because advanced periodontal disease can cause severe problems and pain for your pet. Periodontal disease doesn't just affect your pet's mouth. Other health problems found in association with periodontal disease include kidney, liver, and heart muscle changes.

Cats in particular can also have other forms of periodontal disease including resorptive lesions and stomatitis which are painful conditions affecting the tooth roots and can happen in young cats with seemingly 'clean' looking teeth. Dental issues in your pet are not just cosmetic, but serious medical issues that can affect their quality of life.

In order to effectively diagnose and treat periodontal disease, the process begins with an oral exam of your pet's mouth by a veterinarian. Because most dental disease occurs below the gumline, advanced imaging may be needed to evaluate the health of the jaw and the tooth roots. At Atlantic Animal Hospital, we now have implemented the use of cone beam computed tomography (or CT) to better evaluate not only the health of the dental structures, but also the health of surrounding structures like the sinuses, middle and inner ears. These structures previously were unable to be visualized using regular dental radiography. CT imaging has been used in specialty and teaching veterinary hospitals for years, and AAH is excited to now be able to offer this superior imaging technique to our clients and for our patients. Once the entire mouth has been evaluated and imaged, the teeth are thoroughly scaled and polished above and below the gumline, and any diseased teeth are extracted by the veterinarian.

All veterinary dental procedures require the use of general anesthesia. Anesthesia is essential for veterinary dental procedures to ensure that the procedure can be completed successfully, and makes it possible to perform the dental procedures with less stress and pain for your pet. Fear of general anesthesia is a natural concern voiced by many owners when a dental procedure is recommended. However, the risk of chronic oral infection, for example, is far greater than the risk of an anesthetic complication. At AAH, we fully evaluate your pet's health including a full physical exam and bloodwork prior to anesthesia, and all physiological parameters are fully monitored while under anesthesia to ensure that the entire procedure is done as safely as possible. Also, having your pet's teeth cleaned before periodontal disease becomes severe means a much quicker procedure. As with anything, prevention is always better than treatment, which is why routine dental care is so important.

February is National Pet Dental Health Month which is the perfect opportunity to address your pet's dental health, as most veterinarians offer discounted dental procedures during the entire month of February. At AAH we offer 15% off all dental procedures during February and are now using CT imaging to better assess the health of your pet. So don't wait to schedule your pet for a dental cleaning, they (and you) will be much happier when they have a healthy mouth!

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